is Deputy Legal Director of the American Civil Liberties Union and Director of the ACLU’s Center for Justice, which houses the organization’s criminal justice reform, prisoners’ rights, and capital punishment work. She is leading the ACLU’s National Campaign to End Overincarceration, which advances smart criminal justice reforms aimed at safely reducing correctional populations around the country. In addition, Vanita is an adjunct clinical professor at NYU School of Law, where she teaches and oversees its Racial Justice Clinic
Vanita has won numerous awards for her advocacy and has been quoted extensively in national and international media on racial justice and criminal justice issues. In 2011, the National Law Journal recognized her as a Top 40 Minority Lawyer Under 40. She serves on the board of the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana. Vanita is a graduate of Yale University and New York University School of Law. And she is the proud mother of two rambunctious sons.
From 2006-2010, Vanita was a staff attorney with the ACLU’s Racial Justice Program, focusing on systemic criminal justice reform, immigration detention, and education litigation. She won a landmark settlement on behalf of immigrant children detained in a privately-run prison in Texas that led to the end of “family detention” at the facility. Prior to joining the ACLU, Vanita was at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund where she successfully led the effort to overturn the wrongful drug convictions of 38 individuals in Tulia, Texas, and served on the legal team that won freedom for renowned prison journalist Wilbert Rideau in his fourth retrial after he had already spent 44 years in prison. She also successfully won significant sentence reductions for several men subject to harsh New York Rockefeller drug penalties.